All of the motherhood clichés often start to ring true once you’re parenting a baby and toddler. Yet, the experience is so much more than that—and complex in its own unique way for every parent. Here, nonfiction writer, poet, and first-time toddler mom Laura Vrcek tries to make sense of her own experience in a rather poetic way in her essay “Stacks.” Enjoy & relate.
I know that feeling of relief my toddler son feels upon knocking over a tower of neatly stacked blocks; an uncomfortably even row of books; anything sitting there just a little too organized for the curious chaos of his mind.
Those stacks and towers do deserve to be pushed over, disorganized, undone.
I watch him, eyes alive in the shape of anis, as he discovers the three rows of books on the set of salvaged shelves his father and I nailed sturdy and spray-painted gold.
The books are aligned, spine by spine, according to height, thickness, genre.
He seeks not to assemble the puzzle, but to take it apart; to inspect its pieces so he can understand how round curves could possibly fit together into something that locks into square.
I feel his fury, because his fury is not unlike my fury—what I hear at times called mother rage, a feeling that builds in our bodies as sleep depletes and meals are scavenged from the soppy leftovers on tiny dinner plates. Because, somewhere amid the long days we both love and loath of our week-after-weeks, we revert to our animal selves, more concerned with feeding than hunting for ourselves. Pleasure? Later. We’re just not there right now.
I don’t always know the new girl-woman in the mirror. But I know she wants to join my son and tear those neat rows of books from the shelves in a wild wolf frenzy too—the soft round of his face glowing with pleasure as his mother joins in on what one usually refrains from.
Don’t pull the books off the shelf. Leave the heater alone. Leave the cord where it is. Not for babies, I say, building a world of rules around his loud, little life like he needs it. Or at least, I think he does. Right?
When we are told no too many times, toddler or not, it loses its meaning. I cannot wake and read leisurely for an hour before breakfast before getting to my desk like I used to, nor can I have a spontaneous Saturday without ample planning. No, no. I have my own no-list now, and it’s a bright orange road sign.
I’m not complaining. I chose this life and this little boy who is a million times more magnificent than I’d hoped he could be. Every day, I love who he is more and more. It’s just that this new life of constant watching for rocks in the mouth, for steep hills a baby body could tumble down—it’s like the sharp edge of a curt comment. It sticks with you after the shock wears off. Mothers, inside, we shake. Then we rock our children with a sure love so big the world seems small.
I want to tell my son to do what he pleases to the books, to the tower of blocks that begs to be demolished. F*ck ‘em, I think. Knock ‘em over. Have at it with the most animal parts of your hungry toddler heart. And when he does, I hope he can feel the weightlift of a very well-earned exhale for the both of us.
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